Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Billion Reasons to Wake Up

7-billion but who's counting?   Apparently a lot of people are counting including the environmental desk of The Guardian a.k.a. Monbiot & Co.   They've taken the occasion of humanity passing the 7-billion threshold to publish a bevy of articles on the state of the planet going onward to 9-billion, possibly more.

Monbiot argues that population is really just the sideshow.  It's not so much how many mouths we have to feed as the massive amounts a lot of those mouths are consuming.

"...In 2009 for example, a group of US billionaires met to decide which threat to the planet most urgently required their attention. Who'd have guessed? These men, who probably each consume as many of the world's resources in half an hour as the average African consumes in a lifetime, decided that it was population.  

Population is the issue you blame if you can't admit to your own impacts: it's not us consuming, it's those brown people reproducing. It seems to be a reliable rule of environmental politics that the richer you are, the more likely you are to place population growth close to the top of the list of crimes against the planet.

The new report, inflated though its figures seem to be, will gravely disappoint the population obsessives. It cites Paul Murtaugh of Oregon State University, whose research shows that:
"An extra child born today in the United States, would, down the generations, produce an eventual carbon footprint seven times that of an extra child in China, 55 times that of an Indian child or 86 times that of a Nigerian child."

And, if you were born after 1952, The Guardian has a neat calculator that figures out the size of the global population when you were born.

Of course you can't discuss population without considering the youth who'll have to live with what's coming.    A recent United Nations study shows that tough sledding lies ahead for this 1.8-billion whose potential will be lost to a lack of infrastructure, education and jobs.

Contributor Andrew Simms offers insights into Occupy London:

"Oddly, the era of modern, triumphal, deregulated finance was much shorter than the lifespan of its apparent antithesis, the old Soviet Union. Here were two systems, very different, yet equally centralising of power and privilege, and arrogantly certain of their own mission. Both, also, left an awful mess behind.

Twenty five years on from the "big bang" in the City of London we can survey how the period of great deference to finance reshaped our landscape. Consequences are everywhere in the results of an economic scorched earth policy, still unfolding in business failures, instability, unemployment, loss of public services and recession.

But as well as the way in which untethered finance fuelled expansion and divergence in the global economy, it equally re-engineered society and the environment. Alongside the financial explosion have been others in debt-driven over-consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and inequality. New Scientist magazine last week reported that "our current emissions trajectory is close to the worst case scenario of the intergovernmental panel on climate change".

...Just as finance loosed its moorings from the real economy, the economy has loosed its moorings from the real world. The other great destabilisation over the last quarter of a century has been the growth of inequality. In the large majority of OECD countries inequality rose from the 1980s. Inequality matters, pushing up a wide range of social costs, weakening the social fabric and producing less convivial places to live. While things have been bad in English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and United States, the negative trend has caught up with traditionally more equal countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

...As nature abhors a vacuum so, it seems, does culture and politics. The Occupy movement has, almost by accident, taken on the role of self- and public education about the financial system. Here are unpaid amateurs attempting a necessary critique of finance that paid professionals woefully failed to provide. And, of course, they are being damned for doing so.

...It's fashionable to say that the protesters' demands are too broad and vague. Yet, what they are achieving is to reclaim a public realm for debate and engagement, one that the privileges given to finance have done so much to destroy. If nothing else, practising a different kind of politics and calling for finance to be made subservient to useful social, economic and environmental purposes, to make things better rather than worse, is enough for one demonstration."


Owen Gray said...

Those who accuse the OWS folks of being unfocused and ineffective simply don't get it.

The people in the streets are merely pointing out that the damage done has been multifaceted -- and that there is a lot of work to do.

LMA said...

One of the OWS posters summed it up nicely for me: "Need not greed"